One of the advantages of not having a fixed workplace is the ability to see the effect on the roads network of how public events are organised from one area to another in Oxfordshire - and sometimes even beyond.
It was disappointing recently that, for a third successive year, the organisers of the Virgin Sport Oxford Half Marathon considered it commercially expedient to cut off the entire village of Old Marston from vehicular access for five hours, as well as other areas of north Oxford.
That day, there was no choice other than to walk to church. Stopping along the way to look for my neighbour who was running in the race and whom I was sponsoring, a leisurely stroll took about forty minutes. It was no particular hardship for me, but significant numbers of the congregations of at least three local churches affected by the road closures are elderly and less ambulant.
Many are dependent upon the kindness of others for vehicular transport to their place of worship, on their holy day and it is wrong that they should be denied the opportunity to practice their faith, because of a sporting event taking place on public roads. It is incongruous that the organisers use a line drawing of one of the churches affected, on their map of the half marathon route.
For a corporation used to organising such events on a regular basis over many years and in different parts of the world, working with public authorities of various types, it ought not to be beyond their abilities to facilitate access to and egress from churches at given points. But that would require investment in time and in effective consultation with the local community.
Road closures are inevitable with events of this nature. However, the wilful refusal of the corporation running the event to co-operate and consult with the local community’s elected representatives, in the form of the parish council is reprehensible. What is a parish council even in existence for, if it is not to represent the views of local people, to those who have even greater power over them?
We learned at the last parish council meeting that the chairman has written both to the organisers and to Oxfordshire County Council, who are the highways authority, to complain. Lack of consultation over the route is especially wearisome, when any local resident would know that there are better alternatives, given the completion of roadworks in north Oxford some time ago.
Conversely, Abingdon’s full length Marathon, due to take place this Sunday, is organised by a committee of volunteers. It only enforces road closures for the first two and a half miles and last mile and a short section between Sutton Courtenay and Drayton and moreover, for shorter periods of time.
Roads closures, like those for the Abingdon Marathon, are reasonable. Five hours of roads closures, like those for Oxford Half Marathon, are not.
As published in the Herald Series on Wednesday, 18 October 2017
- The Abingdon Marathon, Frequently Asked Questions, web site, 14 September 2017, as retrieved 17 October 2027
- Oxfordshire County Council (Abingdon Marathon) Special Event Order 2017 (pdf), 09 October 2017, as retrieved 17 October 2017